Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

TV Critic Neil Genzlinger’s Absurd Quote, Samantha Bee, And The 9th Circuit’s Travel Halt Decision]

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First, a quote…

“There is a lot of bravado in this series about how comics are society’s truth-tellers. As Keegan-Michael Key puts it: “The comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to show the world that: ‘Do you see that this is happening? We didn’t make this up.’”Of course, we’ve just been through a period in which comedians of all sorts joked about one possible outcome of the American presidential election as if it could never actually come to be, and it came to be anyway. Now, the comics holding that curtain may be realizing that, sometimes, the world isn’t listening or doesn’t care.”

—New York Times TV reviewer Neil Genzlinger, in his conclusion to the review of CNN’s documentary on the history of television comedy.

Ugh.

The reason, Neil, that the world “isn’t listening or doesn’t care” is that with very, very rare exceptions, the political pronouncements of comedians are simple-minded, ignorant, juvenile or worse. Unfortunately, comics are increasingly laboring under the delusion that their junior college degrees, narrow life experiences and success at making drunks cackle imbues them with some genuine authority to pass judgments on complex policy issues. This is manifestly untrue. The clowns are on TV because they are, or were, allegedly funny, not because they have anything more sophisticated to offer regarding foreign policy or tax reform than the average guy on a barstool.

I have now seen an ad for Samantha Bee’s comedy show “Full Frontal” approximately a million times, or so it seems. If she is really this  ignorant, her show should be banned by the NEA. All of her featured riff is about how horrible the President is—well, at least that’s original—and it ends with her statement, complete with “any idiot should know this” facial mugging, that “lawyers call” Trump’s temporary immigration halt from seven nations “unconstitutional.”  Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “Late Night” Host Seth Meyers

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Seth Meyers is a comedy writer and performer, and his job, on the show following the Tonight Show, is to be funny, not to use the program as a platform for his political views. His predecessor twice-removed, David Letterman, increasingly ignored that line as time went on and he moved to CBS. This stratified his audience, and abused his role, but massaged Letterman’s massive ego. (Meyers’ immediate predecessor, current Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, may not always be funny, but he knows his place.) Meyers is relatively new to the job, and this week went much, much farther than Letterman ever went, while being supremely smug about it. Here were his hilarious comments last night:

MEYERS: So there were some incendiary and counterproductive responses to the tragedy in Dallas, but there were perhaps no worse response than that of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who complained, in perhaps the most galling and offensive way possible, that those peacefully protesting for police reform should shift their focus.

RUDY GIULIANI (on video): If I were a black father and I was concerned of my child, really concerned about it, and not in a politically activist sense, I would say, “be very respectful of the police. most of them are good. some can be very bad. and just be very careful.” I’d also say, ‘Be very careful of those kids in the neighborhood and don’t get involved with them, because son, there’s a 99% chance they’re going to kill you, not the police.’

MEYERS: Okay, first of all, don’t ever start a sentence with the phrase, “if I were a black father.” If you are black father, you don’t need to say it. And if you’re not, you should probably just shut the fuck up. And if Giuliani’s willing to say that some police can be very bad, you would think he’d see the value in the Black Lives Matter protests. But instead, he condemned them.

Observations: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Performance

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On the eve of her Super Bowl 50 half time show performance, Beyoncé released  “Formation,” a video full of references to Black Lives Matter tropes and propaganda, including “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!”  (You can view it here. The earlier version of this post had an unofficial version: I apologize for the error.) Then in her portion of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the pop star gave the sold-out stadium and world-wide audience a live version of the video, including  backup dancers wearing Black Panther berets who formed  an X, apparently alluding to black Muslim activist Malcolm X, and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. African-Americans activists wrote that they saw the performance as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary, not of the Super Bowl, but to the Black Panthers.

The halftime show was part of a marketing plan messaging across multiple platforms, from social media to mainstream media. Once the show was seen in the context of the more explicit video, a controversy emerged, just as Beyoncé ‘s marketing geniuses hoped it would. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the vocal critics, calling the show “outrageous” said telling Fox News,”This is football, it’s not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”  Protests are planned at NFL headquarters.

What’s going on here?

1. Stipulated: Beyoncé’s sole intentions are to sell, make money, and get buzz. If she has a genuine political motive, and I doubt it, it is secondary to the good ol’ profit-making motive that has made her a mega-millionaire. She and her husband Jay-Z have been linking their brand to Black Lives Matter because they see profit in it, that’s all. Is it crass and ethically inert? Sure it is…just like the music business and the rest of show business. Is it particular disgusting, at a time of dangerous racial division in this country heightened by liars, crooks, complicit activists and cynical politicians, to try to make money by glamorizing it? Yes indeed, but the Julie Principle needs to be applied here. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and if you are paying any attention to people like Beyoncé, you can’t be shocked or overly angry at them when they show that their motives are purely non-ethical at all times. Yes, Beyoncé’s conduct was culturally irresponsible and unethical. “This is my shocked face:”

shocked face

2. That said, hijacking the Super Bowl halftime show to make a race-baiting, divisive, anti-police demonstration out of what is supposed to be a unifying, fun, family-friendly cultural event, by extolling the racist Black Lives Matter, the criminal and racist Black Panthers, and destructive lies like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is indeed outrageous. The stunt deserves every bit of criticism it has recieved and more. Continue reading

New York City And The Mayor: Case Study In The Simpson Principle

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The Simpson Principle does not refer to Homer but Alan, the now-retired Republican Wyoming Senator who once sat next to me at a press conference announcing the Reagan administration amnesty for illegal immigrants. Conservatives hated amnesty back then, too, and Simpson was regarded as a conservative. When I found myself seated next to him at lunch (my Foundation for the Chamber had done a study on immigration reform), I took the opportunity to quiz him on why he took the lead in this issue. (Those Chamber events were fun: another time, I ended up alone at a table with Gene McCarthy.)

Simpson said, as I remember it, “Well, ideology is great, but eventually you have to use real measures to solve real problems. If you keep flogging ideology when you know it won’t work, you’re a fool. It’s dumb, it’s irresponsible, and it’s wrong.”

You will note that 1) Simpson’s plan didn’t work either, though it wasn’t the plan’s fault, 2) Conservatives still oppose what they call amnesty, and yet haven’t a single rational, practical recommendation for how to handle the 13 million illegal immigrants who have slipped into the country since that Eighties luncheon chat, and 3) both liberals and conservatives have been meeting Simpson’s definition of fool lately.

[Aside: I ran into Simpson at LaGuardia last year, introduced myself and thanked him for that wisdom. He remembered me, amazingly, but didn’t remember that comment. “I said that?” he said. “Wow. I was smart that day. Thanks for reminding me of it. I wish I had run into you a few years ago.”]

One of the primary fools who is running amuck these days is Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is determined to again try the lassez faire, look the other way, “compassionate,” kinder, gentler law enforcement policies of his former boss, the infamous Mayor David Dinkins. In the 1980ss, Dinkins continued the transformation of  New York City into a declining, filthy, crime-riddled hell, and only the long, painful, much-criticized introduction of the so-called “broken window” theory into the city’s management by Rudy Giuliani turned the crisis and the city’s fate around.

As chronicled by Myron Magnet on one of my favorite blogs, City Journal, de Blasio is determined to relive the Dinkins experiment, because it would be nice if that way of running a big city works. Already, the completely predictable results are in evidence.

He writes: Continue reading

Rudy’s Heresy

Obama with-United-States-Flag

Hot on the heels of the Ethics Alarms Presidents Day celebration of the men who have held the office, which began with the premise that every one of them made a patriotic decision to attempt such a daunting job and deserves our respect and gratitude, comes Rudy Giuliani to accuse the current occupant of the office of not loving the United States of America. His accusation came not in a national address or an interview with CNN, mind you, but at a small, private dinner for nascent GOP Presidential hopeful Scott Walker. This sparked an over-the-top freakout by the mainstream media, which did everything from questioning Giuliani’s patriotism and sanity to accusing him of racism (but of course).

Then, because we all know Giuliani, who is neither a leader of the Republican Party nor currently an elected official, speaks for all Republicans, every Presidential contender had to answer the “when did you stop beating your wife” question of whether they also believed that the President didn’t “love” the U.S. Rudy was interviewed and re-interviewed to clarify his remarks, leading him to “explain” that he wasn’t impugning Obama’s patriotism, but would not apologize, and to speculate that Obama’s upbringing and past associations had produced a socialist/communist sensibility. Rudy also said that the President had rejected American “exceptionalism,” and that this was ominous.

Finally, in what was a foolish, unnecessary—but sadly typical for this President—“I am not a crook” moment, Obama felt it was necessary to rebut the former New York Mayor by declaring in a speech that he did love America.

Ick, yuck, uck, petooie, bleh, gag, yechhh.

What an ugly and destructive controversy.

Observations from the ethics perch: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “After The Brooklyn Cop Murders, The Sound Of Spinning: WindyPundit Takes On My ‘Smear'”

Neil Dorr is among my favorite regular Ethics Alarms commenters, because he is passionate, articulate and fearless, and because he disagrees with me about 85% of the time. I’m also fond of Neil because he is part of an esteemed father-son team here: Karl Penny, his dad, had registered his commentary at Ethics Alarms since its launch. Neil informed me this month that his father had died, suddenly and unexpectedly. It is strange: I had never met Karl face-to-face, but I feel like I have lost a friend, so vivid and good-natured were his periodic communications here. Neil, of course, has lost far more, and my heart and good wishes go out to him and his family.

Someone had to register this response to my conclusions regarding the assassinations of two police officers in New York. I assumed that this would be the reaction of many and perhaps the majority, which is why I almost didn’t post my position. I know it walks into the spinning propeller of predictable resistance to truth-telling on this issue.

The media is already doing a bang-up job confusing the public and muddying the water, primarily by misrepresenting the situation as a) a dispute over “police abuse,”when the issue is the presumed racism of the system; b) focusing on NYC Mayor De Blasio, who is a minor player at best, and c) making it seem like the consequences of the despicable “Hands up!” propaganda are a local New York issue only. In this they have been ably assisted by clumsy blow-hards like Rudy Giuliani, who virtually made a straw man and handed it to his critics. “Is Giuliani correct in saying that President Obama started a propaganda campaign four months ago that “everybody should hate the police”? asked Washington Post “Fact Checker” on the way to giving Rudy four “Pinnochios.” Of course he wasn’t correct. I, however, am correct when I conclude that Obama and others have created an environment where African Americans fear and distrust the police, the justice system, and their fellow citizens who happen to be white more than any period since the Civil Rights movement. I know that Obama supporters  disheartened Democrats hate to hear this, and will resist accepting it like the approach of grim death. They can take solace, perhaps, in the fact that my influence on and ability to enlighten public perception is negligible, so with the help of the news media, accountability can be ducked once again, at least for a while. Maybe after the death toll rises sufficiently, people will be ready to listen….to someone else with a bigger megaphone, presumably.

Here is Neil Dorr’s Comment of the Day on the post “After The Brooklyn Cop Murders, The Sound Of Spinning: WindyPundit Takes On My ‘Smear,'” and yes, I will have a rebuttal at the end: Continue reading

New York’s Stop And Frisk Ethics Train Wreck

Free speech, Brown University style.

Free speech, Brown University style.

On the CBS Tom Selleck drama “Blue Bloods,” fictional New York police commissioner Ryan (Selleck) must deal with a court-mandated monitor to prevent police abuse of the city’s stop-and-frisk tactics. The show might as well just sketch out its season following parallel developments in the real stop-and-frisk drama in the city, which has already taken some strange twists and turns and is bound to take others. It is now officially an Ethics Train Wreck, involving questionable ethical conduct by police, the city government, a former mayor, Fox News, a judge, college students, and an Ivy League college: Continue reading